Scripture: At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30 ESV
Observation: Having challenged the crowds regarding their fickleness and misguided judgment, Jesus then pronounces judgment on the citizens of three Galilean cities who rejected Jesus as their chosen Messiah despite his performing miraculous signs in their presence that validate his mission (11:16-24). Likely exhausted from the intense confrontations, Jesus transitions to praying aloud to the Father, thanking him for hiding “these things” (the Gospel) from the supposed wise and learned while revealing them to “little children,” referring to the vulnerable and overlooked (v.25).
He then tells the crowd that the Father has handed him “all things” (i.e., authority over all creation, see Great Commission, 28:18-19) and describes the relational intimacy and knowledge between his Father, him, and his disciples:
- Only the Father truly knows the Son.
- Only the Son directly knows the Father.
- His disciples know the Father if he reveals the Father to them.
Here, Jesus outlines his and his disciples’ agencies: the Father grants his Son authority over creation, and implicitly, he has commissioned his disciples to grow his kingdom. And the basis for this agency is knowledge: his disciples know the Father because they know him.
Having outlined this foundation for an intimate, trusting relationship, Jesus invites his followers to draw near to him and find rest for their weary souls. But this requires that they yoke with him, a familiar metaphor of joining forces in labor as two oxen are yoked to plow or pull a cart. But unlike the yoke of Israel’s religious leaders, who have expanded the law to where its weight of obedience exhausts the people, Jesus’ yoke of obedience is easy, and his kingdom-building burden is light.
Takeaway: The Hebrew understanding of knowledge implies obedience based on trust—marked even by intimate love in certain relationships like marriage. Here, though, the focus is on servant relationships where the steward has gained intimate knowledge of his master’s business practices, familial relations, and personal habits and thus knows what the master needs before being asked. Indeed, being one with the Father, the Son supremely knows the Father. Still, through his good graces, Jesus reveals the Father to the Twelve through his agency. And as the apostles spend three-plus years 24/7 with their Rabbi, they will one day soon know Jesus and discern his will most of the time, even after he ascends to heaven.
Still, living in a sin-marred world, they and we will need to further develop our knowledge of the Triune God through the third person: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will teach us to yoke with the Son: to obey his commands and discover that even though we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses to follow Christ (16:24), the weight of persecution, and even death, is not as heavy of a load as the spiritual and emotional demands of meeting the Mosaic law or other humans’ expectations. Why? Because Christ yokes his commands with his grace that is always sufficient. And when we feel spent from pouring ourselves out, his spirit draws near us and speaks words of hope and comfort and instills Christ’s shalom peace into our troubled minds and hearts. And the joy we gain in pleasing our Lord and Savior and hearing his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is incomparable to even the most endearing of our friends and family.
In short, Christ’s yoke is easy because we learn from him how to deny ourselves, obey his commands, and develop a deeper understanding of who he is (gentle and lowly) and the extent of his grace (always sufficient).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who has revealed you to us. And we thank you and your Son for imparting your Holy Spirit, who guides us in yoking to your Son’s grace that empowers us to obey his commands, mature in our faith, and grow his kingdom. So would you please help us rest in his gentle and lowly spirit along the way and one day hear his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling